College encourages public to visit herbarium

August 25, 2014

The Anoka-Ramsey Community College Russell Johnson Herbarium has been a labor of love for the Cambridge Campus Biology Department, and the public is invited to visit or organize a tour.

For years, Biology Faculty members Brad Wold and Phil Anderson envisioned an herbarium, a collection of dried plant specimens, but were unable to work such a project into their teaching schedules. In 1999, Mary Januschka joined the department and Anderson refocused to part-time teaching and herbarium curation.  Starting from scratch, it was a very slow process.

Over the next few years, two events occurred to give the herbarium the boost it needed.

First, Russell W. Johnson, a resident of the Cambridge-Isanti area and Biology Faculty at Bethel College donated one of his two plant collections to the Cambridge Campus. On April 24, 2001 a reception in Johnson’s honor was given by the college to acknowledge the gift. His plant collection formed the core of the herbarium. The major task of integrating plants of Russell’s functional groupings will continue for some time. The colleges’ phylogenetic shelving arrangement is based on plant fossil history and DNA evidence.

The second major event was a project by the Isanti County Environmental Coalition focusing on the bog located in the Wayside Prairie County Park, about four miles southwest of Isanti, Minn. on Co. Rd. 10. The coalition organized a complete survey and sampling of the bog resulting in a collection of 50 plant species housed in the college herbarium. This work was accomplished between 2000 and 2003. 

Currently the herbarium has a database of 460 entries, many of which have several specimens. The majority of plants are from Minnesota and Wisconsin but also include plants from several other areas of the country.

The herbarium is open to the public Monday, Wednesday and Friday 1 to 4:30 p.m. or by appointment. Contact Phil Anderson (Phil.Anderson@anokaramsey.edu) or Mary Januschka (Mary.Januschka@anokaramsey.edu) for appointments. The herbarium phone number is 763-433-1888.

Community members are strongly encouraged to bring in plants for identification. Visitors can view specimens or compare plants they have with the collection for identification and classification. Several resources are available to assist in identifying plants.

Groups are also encouraged to arrange for a tour. Tours can be tailored to a wide range of ages and objectives from elementary school age children to college and other adult groups with specific interests. Some very specific ideas can be conveyed in as little as 30 minutes but one or more hours may be more appropriate for special interest groups. It is possible to arrange for a virtual tour to be taken to a group meeting offsite.

To find out more about the herbarium and access the database, visit www.AnokaRamsey.edu/herbarium.aspx

Russell Johnson Herbarium

Anoka-Ramsey Community College Science Lab Manager, Dan Harmon and Raelynn Clarkson, student herbarium volunteer, are shown here in the college’s Russell Johnson Herbarium. The public is invited to visit or organize a tour.